Sonia Gandhi asked me to leave. I stood my ground. There was a reason.

Sonia Gandhi asked me to leave. I stood my ground. There was a reason.

“I did not want you here,” Sonia Gandhi said giving me a stern look. When she spoke, it was meant to be the final word.

I stood my ground. Not wavering. “How could you come here?” she questioned. And she repeated: “I do not want you here.” I had resolved not to move from that place.

April 10, 1999. The AICC president flew down to Hyderabad from Delhi in a chartered flight. It was a hot summer month. We, a group of reporters, from Hyderabad had reached Adilabad several hours earlier on that day. Sonia Gandhi was to speak to the families of those affected by viral fevers in the district. The families were brought to one place and they were all made to sit in chairs side by side.

When she said “I do not want you here”, she had meant every word of it. The Congress boss had also made it clear that she had no intention of talking to the media. In old ambassadors, we had travelled a long distance from Hyderabad with Congress leaders making the arrangements for us to cover the event. After having reached there, we were informed that Sonia Gandhi wanted to speak to the families and made it abundantly clear that she would not be meeting the media.

So, the natural question that arose was, “Then why did we have to come all the way from Hyderabad?” We had waited for several hours as she was behind schedule. We also had to travel back to Hyderabad and write our report for it to appear in the newspaper the next day. But what were we supposed to write?

Sonia Gandhi saw that I was being adamant. We were face to face and the Congress leaders accompanying her too had kept a respectable distance from her, except for one who was around for translation purpose. She did not quite understand why I was refusing to understand what necessarily were meant to be her orders.

In the hot sun, I had waited for Sonia Gandhi’s arrival for hours. Finally when her helicopter landed at the site, for some reason there appeared to be some confusion. She got down and briskly walked to the right side of the premises. Then she went to the left. I later found out about what the confusion was about. Avoidable here.

“How can me being there be an impediment for you Ma’am?” I asked the Congress leader politely. “I had clearly said I did not want the media to be around,” she said, her voice now firm.

If Sonia Gandhi had no intention of addressing the media, so be it. But certainly, our visit to Adilabad from Hyderabad to cover her visit cannot be a report which lacked details. It simply could not be a fruitless and meaningless report. The fact that she came, spoke to the families, and left, could have been reported as a one paragraph report sitting in Hyderabad itself.

“Ma’am, this is an arrangement we media have made ourselves. Not just me, there are other reporters at different places who are standing behind the families which are seated. All that we want to do is observe your interaction with them. Since you have come to find out about their problems, we also want to listen to the problems they are bringing to your notice. When you speak to them, I will not intervene,” I explained to her.

Sonia Gandhi now seemed to understand. She looked at the notebook and the pen in my hands.  I put pen to paper as she went about speaking to the families.








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